Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Military Chaplains Endorsed by Who?!

It looks like someone is - finally - taking a long, hard look at how the American military checks out chaplains. Muslim chaplains, that is.

Don't have a stroke: I don't 'hate Islam;' this isn't a rant about those awful Muslims/foreigners/whatever; and I think it's a good idea to learn if any sort of chaplain thinks that, say, Hamas is a charitable organization.

'They Wouldn't Print It If It Wasn't True?'

I take what I read in the news "with a grain of salt." In some cases, several truckloads of salt. Like the howler I discussed today in another blog:I'm inclined to think that the hapless science reporter who wrote about the Martian moon, Titan, should be cut some slack. (Titan orbits Saturn, not Mars, by the way.) FOXNews probably hired some wunderkind who got passed through America's public school system. Which is part of the reason that my kids are home schooled from 7th grade up. And that's yet another topic. (A Catholic Citizen in America (May 20, 2010))

That was an "Air & Space" article - and I've gotten used to clueless, inept, ill-informed 'science' reporting in news media. I think it's a cultural thing. It's important, in America, to know that the Super Bowl is not a basketball game. That Titan circles Saturn, not Mars? Not so much.

Chaplains Endorsed by ISNA? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Anyway, here's something else that appeared in FOXNews today. It's not that I entirely trust the company: but this article has citations, and somebody was brave enough to have their name in the byline. Odds are that it's factually correct:
"...In a letter sent earlier this month to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, former Inspector General Joseph Schmitz outlined what he believes is the potential risk to national security posed by the military’s current chaplain vetting system.

"Among the concerns Schmitz outlined in his letter, which was obtained by, are:

"- Reports that Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of 13 counts of murder in last year's Fort Hood massacre, acted as a Muslim lay leader and received training from one of the approved civilian religious groups involved with the Defense Department chaplain program.

"- The identification of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of two endorsing agencies used by the U.S. military in its approval process for Muslim chaplains,as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror fundraising trial.

"- The naming of the ISNA's former endorsing agent, Dr. Louay Safi, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2003 trial of Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty to one count of fundraising for the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Safi is also the subject of a whistleblower investigation.

" 'The November 2008 criminal conviction in Texas of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) as a front for Hamas, naming of the DoD's Chaplain Endorsing Agents, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), as an unindicted co-conspirator (among others), suggests that terrorist organizations can and do disguise themselves as charitable organizations,' Schmitz wrote to Feinstein.

" 'The November 2009 Fort Hood massacre by a commissioned Army officer who served as a lay Muslim leader at Fort Hood demonstrates that international terrorist organizations can also try to disguise their agents as chaplains and religious lay leaders,' he added.

"In a statement to, Feinstein, D-Calif., said:

" 'We recently received the letter and staff is reviewing it carefully and making inquiries into how all chaplains are vetted by the Defense Department. Certainly chaplains should be carefully interviewed and backgrounds checked, regardless of their religion.'..."
("EXCLUSIVE: Former Defense IG Raises Concerns About Military Chaplain Vetting," Jana Winter, FOXNews (December 1, 2010))
ISNA seems to be under the impression that Hamas is a charitable organization. I've written about ISNA before.

ISNA may or may not actually be involved in terrorism. However, trusting ISNA to endorse chaplains seems to make about as much sense as trusting the Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka). (November 26, 2007)

If this sounds harsh or intolerant: consider a hypothetical situation.

Would it make sense for the American military to accept Christian chaplains, based in part on the endorsements of a group which appears to support white supremacists, and portrays the KKK in the fifties and sixties as a misunderstood political action committee? I don't think so: and I don't think that folks in America's dominant culture would, either.

As for how big a problem the chaplain vetting process is? I don't know. We'll probably learn more, as time passes.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.